Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season and to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community. Below are some of our favorite excerpts from 2017 celebrating the beauty, abundance, and power of orchards to serve as an engaging place of discovery and connection.
FNC Learning Farm @ 8th & Poplar
We have three sweet cherry trees that had a great harvest this year. Fruit gets a lot more attention & excitement than vegetables, which spread to our surrounding community. The cherry harvesting was a large gathering event, and we had people of all ages picking off cherries. Many people did not know that cherries came from trees. A lot of neighborhood children got to climb the tree to pick off the cherries, which one of them told me was a “magical experience”.
— Marta Lynch
Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House – Erie Branch
We had a family stay with us from the midwest with a 10 year old wheelchair bound patient. The patient was upset because she had to miss her field trip to a farm while she was in Philly receiving treatment. We asked her to help us pick strawberries and June berries from our orchard. She was very happy to help!
Later in the season we had quite a few international families staying with us. The families loved to cook their own food. We introduced them to the herb garden and they loved it! A few of the families used the medicinal herbs for teas and poultices.
Many families, staff and volunteers were able to taste a fresh fig for the first time! They were all surprised at the difference between a fresh fig and a fig newton.
— Carolann Costa
PhillyEarth @ The Village of Arts & Humanities
This year was one of the largest peach harvests we have ever had. Our students had an opportunity to make peach cobbler with freshly harvested peaches and many neighborhood residents were regularly harvesting peaches for their families.
— Jon Hopkins
Pastorius Community Gardens
Along the edge of the garden we planted a row of raspberries during the Spring planting. They filled out wonderfully and bore tons of fruit all throughout the growing season. Our gardeners were delighted, and several of them who manage their diabetes, were especially happy to have a source of a healthy berry sugar substitute. Because we don’t have a fence, lots of visitors to the garden got to pick the berries and partake in their delicious flavor. Their taste often surprised people, not at all the store-bought berry!
— Vita Litvak
Overbrook School for The Blind
This year our Fig trees did well and the two students who were working Farm to Table were very excited. They graduated but came back to volunteer for our Garden clean-up weekend and they were thrilled to see all the ripe figs. They harvested the figs and Anthony’s Restaurant in Drexel Hill agreed to buy them. The 2 students went with the staff person to deliver the figs to the restaurant. The students were very proud and excited. Anthony’s even put a picture of the figs on their website!
— Roseann McLaughlin
I can tell you from first hand experience that the fruits from the orchard are a huge draw for visitors at the Ag Village. Youngsters are much more inclined to try fruits or herbs, than they are vegetables. Volunteers from Teen Inc said “no thanks” to veggies but specifically asked for fruit to try. POP’s figs were just the ticket. That was their snack after a couple of hours of volunteer service late one afternoon in September. The kids were so grateful, more so I feel, then if I gave them something “packaged”.
That fig tree is like a burning bush in the desert! Everyone loves to stand around it to pick and eat the fruit, and because it fruits over a long stretch of time, and the fruit is often in various stages of development, I like to describe how to tell when the fruit is ripe.
— Leslie Cerf
Yesterday we saw a woman marveling at a persimmon on the sidewalk and looking around to find the source. She excitedly stuck it in her purse and flagged us down when she saw us on the porch. “Do you know what this is?” she exclaimed. “My son just brought one of these home from school and I had never seen it before. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this tree!”
Weavers Way Farm
This was by far the best year for our paw paw trees! We introduced the fruit to so many people at our farm market. People who were already familiar with the fruit were ecstatic to see it on the table, and people who were not familiar with it were intrigued to give it a try!
— Nina Berryman
The week after memorial day, it had been raining all weekend, and my first day back to the orchard I noticed a bunch of clumps under our oak trees in our wood chip patch. Upon further inspection, the clumps were loads of wine-cap mushrooms!! We had inoculated the wood chip patch in the orchard the previous fall, but I had all but given up after I had expected mushrooms to come up in April. That week, our Cook for a Friend program prepared loads of wine-cap mushroom soup and gravy with our meals that benefit homebound older adults. The mushrooms were gorgeous in color, tasted great, and kept coming up for a couple of weeks — it was such a delight!
SUPPORT US! If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards.org/donate.